Now Boarding: Resistance

Jan 14, 2011 1 Comment by

I’m a change agent.  I help my clients discover the change agents inside their organizations and build their skills to affect change.

But that doesn’t mean I always dive willingly into change myself. 

Case in point

The other day I flew from Minneapolis to Orlando on a business trip.

This was my boarding pass:

The picture below was also my boarding pass:

If you have ever flown on an aircraft, you recognize the first one. The paper boarding pass has long been the standard way to get through the security line and find your seat on the aircraft.

But if you’re a seasoned air traveler and an electronic gadget fan, you probably recognize the second picture as well.  It’s an electronic boarding pass that displays a “QR code” which can be read by a special scanner at the security desk and another one at the gate.  Both passes serve the same purpose, but it’s safe to say some folks would not know the first thing to do with an “eBoarding Pass”… its all they can do to get to the airport – let alone get through the airport and on to their destination. Trusting their travel to an image on a cell phone would be out of the question.

I Love Change. Change is how I make a living and it energizes me to help people navigate their way through the process of adopting (or rejecting) significant changes.  It helps that I also love exploring new ideas and forcing myself to consider new things.  In that spirit, I decided to give the eBoarding Pass a try.

I Hate Change. Besides being a professional Change Agent, I’m also a standard human being whose first reaction to new things can be a lot like anyone else’s.  Change is hard.  Adopting a new way can be a pain.  It can be scary. It sometimes takes a lot to convince me that a given change is in my best interest.  This was the case last Thursday when I found myself half-way through my own personal change adoption curve during my first use of the eBoarding Pass.

My flight to Minneapolis earlier in the week had been over-sold.  I had arrived at the gate without a seat assignment and waited for an agonizing hour to see if I would even get on the plane. For my return trip, I was determined to check in online to secure a seat early.

A QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode that’s readable by dedicated QR Barcode readers & camera phones. It consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. QR’s can encoded text, URL’s or other data.

I whipped out my iPad during lunch and with a few taps and clicks I was checked in.  The system asked whether I wanted to receive my boarding pass in printed form or electronically. Since I was nowhere near a printer, I chose the latter and within a minute my cell phone buzzed and a little square blob like the one on the right appeared on my cell phone screen:

Fear Sets In: When I got to airport, there was a long line at security. I considered what a hassle it would be if my phone-based credentials failed to get me through… I considered checking in again to get a paper boarding pass “just in case”.

I wondered out loud: “What if the ePass thing doesn’t read properly?What if I messed something up and the security guys send me back to the end of the line?” … “What if I miss my flight?

So I Caved: I still didn’t fully understand how the QR thing worked and I wasn’t sure I wanted to bet my ride home on it so I succumbed to my fears and printed a paper copy at the self-service kiosk.

I had mixed emotions as I waited in the TSA line. “Was I wise for having a backup plan or was I the Ultimate Change Management Hypocrite for having printed an old-school dead-tree document?”. I talk all day about how people should overcome resistance and fear so they can enjoy the benefits of change… yet I chickened out when given the opportunity to embrace the new technology…

Early Adopters are Everywhere. As fate would have it, the lady behind me in line was traveling with a group of coworkers who were scattered throughout the queue. They were teasing her about – of all things – the fact that she was going through security without a paper boarding card.  I told them I was trying the new gadget approach for the first time today and asked them how confident they were that it would work. One person told me that they had used it several times and only once did it fail to work – and that was at this airport.  One lady summarized her motivation for trying new things with:

“…in my experience early adopters do suffer a bit from time to time, but not as bad as the late ones.”

I reminded her of one of my favorite sayings regarding early-adopters:

“It’s the early bird that gets the worm, but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.”

What does my story mean for Change Agents? My experience illustrates that even people with a pre-disposition toward adopting change will sometimes feel a need to resist.  It’s natural – but it can be dealt with. In my next post, I’ll share eight ways you can engage your stakeholders to overcome resistance.  Here’s a preview of the eight techniques:

  1. Anticipate Push-Back
  2. Create Opportunities to Vent
  3. Listen to Legitimate Concerns
  4. Identify Trends in the Resistance
  5. Be Specific in Your Response
  6. Be Honest in Your Communications
  7. Bend But Don’t Break
  8. Remember: Silence is NOT Golden.

OBTW: My eBoarding pass didn’t read correctly the first time I tried it! I panicked slightly and instinctively reached into my pocket for my paper backup. But the TSA agent showed me a better way to hold the phone over the scanner and it worked like a charm. I breezed through to my gate and got on the plane just fine.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What resistance do you see most often when implementing change?
  2. Is the resistance that you have seen usually legitimate or just whining?
  3. Why do you suppose people resist change when the end result is usually something positive?

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

One Response to “Now Boarding: Resistance”

  1. Tweets that mention Now Boarding: Resistance | theBigRocks of Change -- says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brokerz DAX news. Brokerz DAX news said: RT @chihos – Resistance to #change is natural, even Change Agents can't escape from it! #leadership #SAP #… […]

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